A TIME FOR PAWS
Outside the Litter Box
Why do indoor cats go to the bathroom outside of the litter box? I wish there were an easy answer to this question. However, the psyche of cats is usually not an easy thing to decipher. Sometimes, there is an easy answer, such as in a multi-cat household where one cat is dominant. That dominate cat likes to guard the area around (or the hallway to) the litter box because he does not want to share the litter box. So, the non-dominate cat decides that your favorite easy chair is a better place to use the bathroom. In this situation, proper placement of the litter box and having one more litter box than the number of cats you have will usually fix the problem.
Sometimes, a cat will go outside of the litter box because he sees another cat out the window, and he wants to mark his territory. A situation like this requires that you place blinds on the sliding glass door or window through which your cat watches the world go by. We hate to restrict the cat’s viewings, but if it saves your rug or sofa from being marked then you will have a much better relationship with your cat.
We, also, see cats having accidents for medical reasons, such as urinary tract infections or stones in their bladders. Diabetes and kidney disease can lead to “accidents,” as well. A good physical exam and blood work can rule out many of the medical issues that might be involved. Some of these conditions can be addressed easily and some can be managed but not cured. Depending on the medical cause, we can usually help with the unwanted accidents.
Litter box problems in cats can stem from stress-related issues. What kinds of stress do cats have, you might ask? After all, all they do all day long is sleep and eat. Well, cats are very sensitive creatures. They can be stressed by other family pets, such as a dog. They can stress from changes around the house, such as when a child goes away to college or if a spouse is traveling a lot. They can also stress from boredom. Cats have been hunters for thousands of generations. Now suddenly, they don’t have to hunt or forage for their food. If we give them jobs, such as searching out their food in different locations or playing with a toy that delivers some of their food when they move it the correct way, we can often relieve their stress and help them have a more normal life.
These are some of the common causes of litter box issues. It can take detective work to get to the bottom of the cause. So, don’t fret. If you are having problems, set up an appointment with your veterinarian, who can help you determine how to help your cat.
Dr. Dick Hay is a veterinarian at TotalBond Veterinary Hospital at Davidson and has lived in Davidson since 1989 with his wife Pam, a retired Davidson College biology professor. They raised two wonderful children in Davidson, Sarah and Ben. Dr. Hay is a Davidson College graduate from the Class of 1973 and received his MS and DVM degrees from the University of Georgia. He is active in the community, having served on several nonprofits boards, including many years with the Davidson Housing Coalition.